Where Good Grief does have an authentic ring is in its intermittent descriptions of illness and loss. At such moments — as when Sophie looks at pictures of her husband and realizes "that photo paper, cardboard, leather and gold trim outlast most people" — a hint of bitter honesty does emerge. Her anger, however muffled, also flashes on occasion. "Fortunately he was a cautious driver," she writes about Ethan. "Still, as he looked both ways and stuck to the speed limit, malignant cells crept into his lymph nodes."
The New York Times
Sophie's funny, lopsided view of the world gives emotional depth to the story, and it is what makes Good Grief stand out from other novels that tackle this enormous subject. Winston does not shy away from the pain of mourning, but she reminds us that we can still be funny, sarcastic, aware and smart, even when we are brokenhearted.
The Washington Post
"The grief is up already. It is an early riser, waiting with its gummy arms wrapped around my neck, its hot, sour breath in my ear." Sophie Stanton feels far too young to be a widow, but after just three years of marriage, her wonderful husband, Ethan, succumbs to cancer. With the world rolling on, unaware of her pain, Sophie does the only sensible thing: she locks herself in her house and lives on what she can buy at the convenience store in furtive midnight shopping sprees. Everything hurts-the telemarketers asking to speak to Ethan, mail with his name on it, his shirts, which still smell like him. At first Sophie is a "good" widow, gracious and melancholy, but after she drives her car through the garage door, something snaps; she starts showing up at work in her bathrobe and hiding under displays in stores. Her boss suggests she take a break, so she sells her house and moves to Ashland, Ore., to live with her best friend, Ruth, and start over. Grief comes along, too-but with a troubled, pyromaniac teen assigned to her by a volunteer agency, a charming actor dogging her and a new job prepping desserts at a local restaurant, Sophie is forced to explore the misery that has consumed her. Throughout this heartbreaking, gorgeous look at loss, Winston imbues her heroine and her narrative with the kind of grace, bitter humor and rapier-sharp realness that will dig deep into a reader's heart and refuse to let go. Sophie is wounded terribly, but she's also funny, fresh and utterly believable. There's nary a moment of triteness in this outstanding debut. Agent, Laurie Fox. (Apr.) Forecast: With a 100,000-copy printing, a low price point, a huge publicity push and blurbs from Jennifer Weiner and Billie Letts, this should hit the lists. Book Sense pick for March/April. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
After three years of a happy marriage, Sophie's husband dies from cancer, leaving her, in her thirties, with a big house in San Jose, no children, and the terrible grief that seems at first to destroy her. She leaves her Silicon Valley marketing job after a meltdown whereby she arrived at work wearing her robe and slippers and moves to Oregon, where a friend lives. In the course of the first year, amid the bouts of misery and loneliness, she meets new people, including a very disturbed 13-year-old girl, a handsome actor, and a homeless man she finds wearing one of her late husband's sweaters. The protagonist here is grief: all-controlling, all-pervasive, crushing grief that sometimes cycles through all its stages in 15 minutes, sometimes over months. Sophie's grief is unpredictable and impervious to counseling, medication, and the suggestions of friends and family. Reader Amanda Foreman tells Sophie's story with great emotional clarity and gives distinct voices to the people in her life. Recommended for public libraries.-Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A Silicon Valley widow finds the healing power of befriending people worse off than she is. At 36, Sophie Stanton, recent widow of cancer-victim Ethan, finds her situation unbearable: she is lonely, depressed, prone to overeating, obsessed with wearing Ethan's ski sweater, and unable to function as p.r. manager for a California firm that manufactures a "scrotum patch." When Sophie arrives at work in her robe and slippers, she's granted a leave and moves near her separated friend Ruth, in Ashland, Oregon, which has an alternative Shakespeare Festival and available men. Like Bridget Jones, Sophie is made endearing by her many faults: her "hurricane hair," her weight-gaining tendency, her compassion for losers-like the men who try to pick her up-and her unconquerable hopefulness. In her new digs, demoted from waitress to "salad girl" at her bistro job, she finds a touching redemption in mentoring sassy-mouthed Crystal, a 13-year-old who's failing algebra, periodically cuts herself to relieve frustration, and is dismissed by her own mother as a freak. Yet a much-needed friendship sparks between the two, as well as between Sophie and a handsome local actor, Drew, as she comes into her own-invariably over the theme of food!-by opening a cheesecake shop and gaining a heroic autonomy. If all this sounds perfectly familiar, it is, as "women's fiction" assumes an increasingly hackneyed formula, led by the self-deprecating fat girl and packed with ebullient cheerleading and nary a truly dark or original moment. The characters are frothy, the dialogue chipper, the introspection restricted. Death becomes just another hurdle on the way to self-betterment-along with weight-management and resume-padding.Are women this desperate? Effervescent, silly debut: so eager to please that it reads like the speech of the candidate who won't open his mouth before the polls are consulted. First printing of 150,000. Agent: Laurie Fox/Linda Chester Agency